Category Archives: bigots

Barney’s Why so Racist? Classist? – On Discount Designer Stores

So I’m sure most people have now heard about the young black man who is suing the NYPD and Barneys. While buying a $350 Ferragamo belt he saved for he showed his ID when using his debit card (they keep saying debit so I assume he used his pin as well) and left the store, only to be stopped by 2 undercover cops  a couple of blocks away because he didn’t look like someone who should have that much money.

Here’s a link with quotes from the young man.

Then the young black woman who was stopped after buying a $2500 purse came out.

Then a black actor talked about what happened to him at Macy’s in June.

Barneys has released a bullshit statement that is a non-apology basically stating that their clerks didn’t have anything to do with it and they’ve hired someone to look into their practices.  Since this has been going on for decades ( look at this HuffPo article quoting a man who had it happen to him 2o years ago at Barney’s.) I doubt anything will change. They’re blaming the NYPD who apparently has undercover folks in the district’s stores all the time because of shoplifting/fraud. Last I saw the highest demographic of shoplifters was white women in their 30s-40s but that was a while ago so perhaps the statistics have changed? I sincerely doubt it. I have no idea about the statistics for credit card fraud.

Whether the stores or the NYPD are at fault (I’m sorta leaning toward NYPD) I’m not at all surprised that it was Barneys & Macy’s where these incidents occurred. These sort of discount designer stores with intense pretensions of frou-frouness often have this assumption of class based on outside factors including clothing and race (which is an assumption many of us deal with on a daily basis in the real word). However in actual high end boutiques and/or designer stores (especially in NYC) you don’t usually get the same assumption of class and monetary worth based on physical appearance. Most stores like those have learned the hard way that you can never really tell how much money someone has by the how they look, act, dress.

I’m not saying I think they’re better politically, in fact I’m pretty sure it’s a purely capitalist motive. Those sort of really expensive boutiques don’t do the briskest business especially in this economy. They rely on every sale and on brand loyalty/returning customers so they really cannot afford to alienate anyone. They also have regular customers who save to have that one great basic piece.  This is not to say that you might not encounter a whole host of other aversive racist behavior there but in my personal experience high-end boutiques are less likely to assume they know your monetary situation based on what you look like or how you dress/talk/act.

We shouldn’t ignore the fact that a lot of people also can’t afford to shop in those high-end spaces. There is after all a reason discount designer stores exist, for those of us who save for that one brand piece . So it’s a horrible, capitalist catch-22 that you might get treated better in the stores you can’t afford to shop in. And I say might because there are always exceptions such as Hermes’ treatment of Oprah Winfrey. Though that was also outside the US which means very different economics and race politics were in play in that interaction.

All the same Hermes really took it in the teeth for that whole thing. I would not be surprised if Ferragamo gives the young man the belt for free or some sort of gift certificate or something just to clearly separate their brand from the stink of Barneys/NYPD issues. They have a real chance to take this bad business for Barneys and turn it into good business and publicity for themselves.

But in the end while I’m saddened by all of these incidents I’m not surprised at all, that anywhere at anytime in the United States of America they could happen. Most People of Color in America live with the knowledge that our monetary existence is subject to a lot of suspicion and doubt at the best of times and these are not the best of times. I also think there could be a lot of aversive/unconscious/conscious racism/classism at play here around the expectation that “that sort of person” should not have the money/clothes/car/life that they do especially when you do not.

These incidents are not all recent either. I don’t know when the gentleman’s incident with the belt happened but Kayla Phillips had her altercation back in February, actor Robert Brown’s incident happened on June. I don’t know if these people only came forward after the incident with Christian and the belt came to light or if the media only picked up on their suits after the first one blew up but either way it’s telling.

It’s either:

We as people of color expect to be treated this badly by society, know how often those expectations are fulfilled and are afraid to stand up without other people around ( and I’ve noticed this in myself, when racist incidents have occurred I will turn to other people that were around and ask them to confirm my experience as if I can’t trust myself or know I’ll need outside <preferably white> validation if I choose to talk about it – but that’s a post for another day).

The media doesn’t care for one person of color being mistreated or even two, it has to be a mass of them (and even then if it can be ignored it will be).

Maybe the saddest part is that both the above things are true I just wonder which is truest in this case.

(I didn’t notice the resemblance of this title to my older post: Glee, why so white? Thinking this might become a series of posts. The ” (BLANK), why so (fucked up) ?” posts. Hmm, maybe. )

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Censureship, Myself & Ender’s Game

Pieces of this post have been sitting on my computer since the summer so with the movie coming out I decided to fix it up and post it in the hopes of getting  my blogging back on track

So the film “Ender’s Game” based on the book of the same name by Orson Scott Card is coming out soon. I’m not here to talk about the many issues with Orson Scott Card, his political views are well-known and written by his own hand in most cases.  What I wanted to talk about is my own relationship with Ender’s Game and this new trend I’ve been seeing where people who choose to blacklist a film/show are accused of censorship.

I have a long and complex relationship with “Ender’s Game” both the book and the film, so my feeling on it are more complicated and gray than my feelings for OSC. I read EG at the right age, the perfect age, the age where I felt like no one understood me, adults were ineffectual against my harassers and I had a lot of anger inside that I wanted to get out somehow. I identified with Ender, his struggles and isolation but it was the character of his sister Valentine Wiggins that I left the book loving. The character of Valentine showed me the difference between pacifism and weakness. Ender changes the world through violence and ignorance but Valentine changes it through her words, through arguments meant to sway public opinion. Valentine was the first capitol-A  Academic I read about, the one I’ve probably spent a lot of my life trying to be. When you feel that close to a character you want to see them brought to life, want to see more of them. Also the fact that Valentine is being played by Abigail Breslin, on of my favorite young actresses leaves me hopeful for a great portrayal.

And the casting is another reason I want to see it. Viola Davis is in it. I love Viola Davis and have been truly disappointed in the work she’s been offered post-Help (the less said of her magical negro servant who sacrifices everything for her young white charge in “Beautiful Creatures” the better, looks it’s The Help with magic!). Nowhere has the racism of Hollywood been more blatant lately than the post-Oscars careers of Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis and the roles they’ve been offered.. Generally an Academy Award nomination (let alone a win) results in an avalanche of offers for the actors. Spencer has talked about how this definitely wasn’t the case for her though she’s taken an excellent view of it, acknowledging the disparity of Hollywood while planning ahead:

Well, it must have started ringing at some point, because you have some pretty great projects coming up, like Diablo Cody’s movie and Snow Piercer.
Well, the funny is thing is that I got the Diablo Cody movie and I got Snow Piercer before I got any nominations, so I knew I had both of those projects in November. I don’t want to sound as if [I’m complaining]. The reality is that there are so few roles out there for women and for women of color, and I’m a character actor, this I know. And I’m getting to see more of the roles that are out there, but there aren’t many. And zilch have been studio movies. Zilch. So my challenge and my opportunity now is to take the opportunity to create my own work. I’m fine with that.

In addition to these reasons people will argue that you have to give Science Fiction films your money so that Hollywood knows that SF/F sells and therefore makes more movies. I understand this argument, it was the one I made for the super-insanely disappointing movie “Sucker Punch”. It looked campy and great in the trailer and was the first women-headed film that production company had done in seven years so I wanted it to make money. Despite the ineptness and horrible stereotypes of it’s script I wanted it to succeed just so Hollywood Execs would not be able to say, “See movies with female leads don’t make any money let’s not do it again.”

And I want Hollywood to make more science fiction films. I want them to make more diverse science fiction films (which speaking of Octavia Spencer I am so hyped for her sf/f outing Snowpiercer!). I don’t, however, want them to give OSC my money. I don’t want them to think that OSC films are the way to go. The very last thing we need is a “Prentice Allen” TV series or a “Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus” movie or his homophobic masterpiece “The Songmaster” – the miniseries.

Ultimately the fact is that no one can predict how Hollywood will view the success or failure of something. Executives are not a conglomerate, they are individual people with their own minds, they have their own prejudices and assumptions and that effects how they perceive something. If they took every success as proof of the American public’s wants/needs ‘Alien’ would have been followed by a slew of tough, amazing protagonists in SF/F films who just happen to be women (we got a few, I’m looking at you Linda Hamilton but far from a slew). The success of Grey’s Anatomy would have lead to a slew of TV shows that had a diverse cast and a writing room that was mostly women. How many shows last 10 years?

The fact is that Hollywood takes the success of things that they champion as proof that the people want it, while things they are unsure of/don’t want to think about/deal with/make more of are called flukes whenever they succeed.

So what really cemented my decision not to pay to see this film?

The response  coming from OSC and his rabid supporters. First there’s his horribly demeaning and condescending letter:

“Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984. With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.” — Orson Scott Card.

Ok let’s break the outrage down to it’s component parts, shall we?

Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.

First of all, to act like there weren’t already LGBT folks advocating for rights back then is disingenuous at best, ignorant at worse. His homophobic masterpiece “The Songmaster” was written in 1980 so his views were already well established then and he was authoring his homophobic columns by 1990. So at least personally he was fully aware such issues exists during the length of the 80s. But the most horrible thing about this line to me, is that it shows OSC lack of imagination. Yes, it was written in 1984 and as a sf/f author you should be able to imagine the future of our world that reacts to real life issues. The fact that your future includes no GLBT folks says a lot about you and nothing about the time it was written. Especially since you have authors at the same damn time coming out with groundbreaking pieces that explored gender, race, class, sexuality, ability and a whole slew of other identities in wholly new ways.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

Again I call bullshit. Legal protections have never ended a debate or discrimination in this country, yes they allow for more rights under the law but marginalized people have always known that the laws are applied unevenly. We know that just because a law says were equal doesn’t mean we won’t be hurt/killed/denied our rights. Also we know for a fact that just because something is law doesn’t mean people will follow or acknowledge it. For a recent example look at the ACA and the recent gov’t shutdown.

And the last bit of ridiculousness:

Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

This is the most offensive bit of the whole thing. First of all it recast GLBT folks as intolerant of those with different opinions. Leaving aside the straw man argument that OSC sets up here, explain to me why I have to show tolerance towards someone who never showed it to folks like me? See I’m not intolerant of your opinion in general but when your opinions are on MY RIGHTS which have shit all to do with your life then you’re damn right I’m gonna hold it against you. So basically you spent all this money to deny me rights, wrote columns on how I and people like me are the downfall of society and used to sit on the board of an organization explicitly set up to deny me rights (National Organization for Marriage, he resigned in mid-2013 right when controversy for his film and opinions were heating up, fancy that) and keep me a second class citizen but I’m the one who needs to show tolerance for you OSC? By giving you my hard earned money?

Which leads us to the fans who somehow champion the idea that by not going to see his movie and encouraging others to do the same I am somehow silencing him and his voice. I’ve seen this entitlement in fans a lot, for some reason they will argue that choosing how you want to spend your money and sharing that with others is censorship.

Let me be clear I have NO power in Hollywood. I cannot stop a film from being made. I cannot change the story to suit my ideals. I can’t whiten a character or change their gender. I have no power over the media, what I do have power over is what I choose to give money to. Choosing not to give OSC my money is not silencing him in any way, I am not telling him that he cannot hold his opinions, write his book, write his homophobic columns; what I am saying is that I refuse to give him any more money or social cache by contributing to your movie being a success. That is the only power I have in light of the Hollywood machine.

That is not silencing people, silencing people with money and power is what NOM  did with the money and cache OSC  provided for them. Also even if he’s no longer on the board I don’t trust he still won’t give them his time, money and attention. Am I punishing him for his opinion? No. I’m choosing not to participate in a system that would end up with putting money in his pocket.

I still want to see Abigail Breslin & Viola Davis though. Maybe I’ll stick with my initial plan of paying for a film, something featuring GLBT folks and women of color, something I think should get more money/press/billing and then sneak into “Ender’s Game”.

It’s still voting with your wallet but in a cheating, sneaky way – it’s like rigging the election with your wallet. It’s the capitalist American way.

Blackface is Racist. Period. Mocking Domestic Abuse is Misogynistic. Period.

So this happened.

http://jezebel.com/5952124/idiot-students-in-blackface-reenact-chris-brown-beating-rihanna-at-worst-pep-rally-ever

Yeah an almost all white school had a performance where they did a skit in blackface portraying Chris Brown beating the shit out of Rihanna to win a popularity contest. This was a skit approved by school officials, watched by staff and community leaders. And now many of the students and faculty are defending it, saying it’s not racist at all. Sadly I’m not that surprised by this but it did make me feel some things I wanted to share.

First of all, as always I love it when white people, especially white people who obviously have no cultural knowledge of the history of blackface, and have close to no diversity in their community tell me what’s racist.

‘Cause they know right? They’ve been hassled by the police. They’ve been called the n-word by people that were supposed to be their advocates. They’ve been targets of harassment where people wouldn’t believe them because of their skin tone. They’ve been assumed to be a thief, thug, stupid, animalistic. They know how much it hurts some members of the black community to see blackface, how it’s tied to a time when we were considered less than human, how it was used to mock, belittle, terrorize, and propagandize to keep a group of people from having basic rights.

Blackface is racist. The end. Any comedy that requires you to darken your skin to be funny? Relies on the characters race for humor and considering you couldn’t get a black person to play the role I’m going think that the comedy wasn’t exactly flattering. There is no reason for blackface. Why is your art relying on an archaic and problematic premise?

Prejudice is the easy joke, it’s the simple laugh. Watch any frat dudebro comedy and you’ll see, they go for the old school stereotypes about women, foreigners, LGBTQI folks, disabled people, poor people, etc. for their humor. The women are always virgins or whores there to be mocked for either decision, the POC are always thugs (Af-Am), hackers (As-Am), mocked for their misunderstanding of America (everyone), etc. and the gay characters are there to be mocked with old stereotypes that compare queer women to men and queer men to women. We’re not even going to go into that problematic binary, that’s a completely different post. The point is it’s the easy laugh. HaHa look at the outsider, they’re not like me so their funny. If that’s the only humor you can reach for, aside from being privileged and oppressive you’re just a bad comedian. It’s old, it’s tired, it’s racist, it’s no longer okay.

And I assume if they’re defending this and past examples of blackface they’ve examined why they feel the need to use blackface. They’ve delved deep into their psyche and examined why an almost all white community that has little to no contact with People of Color finds blackface so entertaining it had to happen repeatedly.  They have a really good defense and reasoning for why they did this, why educators approved it, why everyone thought it was funny, aside from their critics being stupid or oversensitive, right? They were doing some good work deconstructing race and gender and the male gaze right? ‘Cause if they don’t have any that.

It’s. Just. Racist.

This is without even going into the fact that they were recreating the act of a black woman being abused! Go to the link above, look at that photo, look at the all-white audience laughing and smiling while they imagine a brown woman being thrown to the ground in violence. I don’t care what the skit was, I don’t care what they meant by it, I don’t care for anything the students, faculty or attendees have to say that is not a heartfelt apology, an explanation why they thought this was funny, and a commitment to examine their own amusement at mocking the physical assault of a black woman. Would it have been just as hilarious if it was recreating Pamela Anderson’s abuse incident? Sharon Osbourne’s? There’s misogyny here to be sure but the racial aspect turns it into something even worse.

What is it about seeing a brown woman beaten that these white boys think will win them a popularity contest, that their community will be entertained by the misogynistic, racist spectacle?

Also I’m sure the faculty and advisers know that 1 in 3 teens report knowing a friend in an abusive relationship, that 1 in 4 teen girls have been forced into sex by a intimate partner, that 80% of abused teen girls continue to date their abuser, that almost a third of teen girls killed every year are killed by a boyfriend or husband. Given these statistics they must also know that there are likely girls in that auditorium watching that performance that are currently involved in an abusive relationship. So what message did they get from the faculty approving of this? How likely are these girls now to feel safe reporting anything about abuse to this school, to anyone in their community? They’ve effectively told all who see this that the misogynistic atmosphere of the community is the arbiter of who gets to complain, who’s pain is real and whose is a joke.

But it was all a joke right?

No, it’s not a joke. Abuse is not a joke, racism is not a joke. I’ve been known to make the off-color joke myself among friends, true but first that is among friends and I always try to be aware of the privilege I have and how that factors into what I’m saying. I try not to be defensive if people decide to call me on what I say. It seems like this community wants none of that. They want to pretend that blackface is just make-up, that watching a woman getting an abusive beatdown is all good fun, that a community rallying to defend white boy’s right to recreate a brown woman’s fear, terror and pain as entertainment is okay. It’s not. This is not art that’s meant to inform, educate or examine abuse in certain communities which is one thing but entertainment that mocks her pain, belittles it, makes it fodder for the humor of an all-white community.

And that? Is. Not. Okay.

Orson Scott Card & Media Friday

By now most of you have probably heard about OSC’s rabidly heterosexist rant in the Mormon Times. If you haven’t check out Yonmei’s deconstruction over at Feminist SF – The Blog. Yonmei’s blogged extensively about OSC’s bigotry over on FemSF but his rant against marriage equality really takes the cake. Bankuei over at Deeper In The Gamereminded me of OSC’s book Songmaster, it’s a relevant point in the discussion that OSC does have queer characters in his books they just always come to horrible ends or realize the way they are is wrong and live in unhappy marriages.


So Media today! I recently talked about Comic Book Tattoo, the almost 500 page comic anthology with over 50 stories all based on Tori Amos’ songs. Well I read the whole thing and it’s amazing and I recommend it to everyone even if you’re not an Amos fan. If you are an Amos fan then sweet jebus you have to get this book! Reading the book while listening to the song that inspired it is fascinating the two different forms inform each other so much that you end up catching nuances in both works that you didn’t notice before. In celebration of that here’s some Tori, a couple classics, a couple from her newest album and one from her hard to find early metal album Y Kant Tori Read:

Recovering

Yesterday I was laid low some horrible stomach thing so I stayed at home curled in a ball around my twisty-painfilled-stomach. I’m better today still a little nauseaus and my throat is sore as all get out – from praying to the porcelain god – but I’m back at work. Low energy so today I’m focusing on some other stuff I have to get done.

For the latest in the the Sanders/Helix farcas go here: http://coffeeandink.livejournal.com/841797.html